Tuesday, October 23, 2018

What Happens to F.I.R.E When A Recession Strikes?

In the eyes of the world, F.I.R.E means not actively working which means you don’t get any sorts of income and have to depend on living off your passive income in order to survive. 

Many people that I know who’ve achieved F.I.R.E are either invested in: 

  • High Credit Rating Bonds – This applies to those whose capital is huge 
  • High Yielding Corporate Bonds – Lower ratings bonds offering higher coupons 
  • Equities – A Combination of Securities, Stocks or Reits 
  • Property – Rental Income 
Most of these assets are susceptible to recession which can severely hurts the value of these assets in our portfolio. 

And this is why most people gave this excuse about not pursuing F.I.R.E by not embracing them gracefully because they have this large misconception that a recession can destroy all that we’ve built.

You can see this reasoning prevalent in many cases in the comments section of many FIRE articles. 

Here, I want to debunk this myth and misconception that many people have over pursuing for F.I.R.E in the midst of a weak economy. 

Adjust Spending Flexibly 

First, most F.I.R.E folks have mastered the grasp of basic survival of spending. 

F.I.R.E folks are not ordinary people that you see on the shopping street. 

They have been trained mentally for long periods of their gestation survival moment throughout the course of their journey to reaching financial independence. 

These are people who can spend very little on their physical appearance, surviving a few months without Netflix, and probably a couple of years without buying new clothes. They can spend little on indulgences such as traveling or fine dining for peace with only books in their hands can give them enough comforts for long periods of time. 

What I am trying to say here is they have been mentally trained so well on their discretionary expenses that during a weak economy where earnings most likely drop, they are able to adjust their lifestyle as such and nothing drastic will happen. 

This is one of the strongest mentality of the F.I.R.E community. 

Assets Revert Back To Their Fair Value Over Time 

During recession, the most scary thing to experience is to visibly see your networth goes down by half the amount of its original value. 

Imagine working your socks off for 20 years and saving a hard stash of $30k every year until you’ve accumulated $1m, and then the moment of truth came which brings down your networth back to $500k. It is almost inevitably that in everyone’s mind they will start thinking the repercussion effect of a recession. 

Some may think that they have to return to the workforce to work for longer period in order to re-accumulate back that $500k that they “lost” during recession while some may start to play mentally in their mind how scary recession is that they can wipe out 16 years ($500k/$30k) of savings in a single year. 

Many people have this thinking that having the most warchest or cash during recession is the key to survive, but they are not. 

The key to survive a recession is to have the strongest mental. 

While it is true that a recession can cause an asset to drop drastically in their market value, for most of the case, they will rebound back once the cycle is over, assuming it is a strong quality asset. 

All you have to do is to stay mentally strong, continue to pick up good companies during this turbulent times and you’d come out not only unscathed but might even benefit in this recession period. 

A recession cannot destroy a folk with a F.I.R.E ambition. 

Only one with a weak mental will self-destruct during times when everybody is fleeing. 

Stress Test For Worst Moment 

A recession is also a good stress test for those with F.I.R.E ambition because it throws you so many bad scenarios from all angles and test your perseverance and determination. 

Imagine you are one of those being laid off without a job during recession, it is indirectly testing your financial strength to see if you have enough emergency funds as a back up to survive during these periods where you don’t receive any income. 

If you are folks in the F.I.R.E community and own a diversified portfolio of stocks in your fund, your company might also most likely cut dividend during these times to stash some cash as opportunities and hence you might be impacted by the lesser amount of dividend received. Again, this is a stress test to see if you, as a F.I.R.E community, have baked in sufficient margin of safety when you decide to achieve F.I.R.E before the recession. 


If you can survive the recession without impacting much of your cashflow scenario, then you are definitely in a good stead towards achieving permanent F.I.R.E. You are probably one of those in the FAT F.I.R.E scenarios where you have baked in a lot more room for margins error. 

For those who are like me and are barely on the Lean F.I.R.E status, I think it also serves a good purpose in stressing how much of what we can absorb and take in during these times and if not, we can work harder to give ourselves a more comfortable figure before deciding to F.I.R.E. 

The idea here is also that F.I.R.E is not a static moment. 

Things can always change, ideas can always evolve and goalpost can always move. 

We just need to be flexible with our adjustment and do not be afraid nor give excuse about the underlying external events which are unrelated to us.

Thanks for reading.

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  1. Hi, a well though post which i can agree.
    Just to add that one have to bite the bullets to cut lost on those hopeless counters and add on good ones to rebalance the porfolio to ride out the recession winning.

  2. These FIRE people has one thing less to worry during recession or depression - their job!

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  4. Hi,

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    Kind regards,

    [Dr. Steve G. Jones]